This semester, I am teaching a course on Global Systems and Societies that is completely online. Previously, I taught it as a blended class with in-person and online portion. Having struggled in the first semester with communication and sorting out the line between in-person/online expectations, moving to the all-online format allowed for a clear delineation of assignments and mediums for communication. On the other hand, it also meant that these students would not be interfacing in a way that lead to natural learning community-feeling and ability to have discussions in a traditional format. I knew that I had to be careful and cognizant of the ways in which I would engage the class and foster that kind of participation.
Anyone who has taken an online class knows this and that lack of interaction contributes to some of the dissatisfaction with online learning. Some surveys suggest that online courses with clear online communication streams are preferred by students. Others conclude that discussions are not particularly preferred or favored, but consistent homework and assignments are cited as the greatest learning vehicles. Yet, from Dewey to Bandura to Hatton & Smith, educational theorists and researchers have proven that when students have the opportunity to reflect and construct their own perceptions of experiences and material, they learn more. Thus, maybe it is the type of reflection and discussion offered that matters and not the mere existence of it in the coursework.
Back in 2010, I attended a presentation given by Michael Stephens on libraries and social media entitled “The Hyperlinked Library — Trends, Tools and Transparency”. As I had followed his blog Tame the Web for few years and had also read a few of his papers and presentations, this was possibly the first time I was looking forward to an event co-sponsored by our library association. I was impressed by his straight-forward, animated and engaging way of speaking and the fact that the presentation left us feeling excited and encouraged to try and use these tools in our libraries. Although many of the newer staff had personal experience using LinkedIn and Facebook, our library was only just starting to create a Facebook presence and there was only a weak interest among staff and administration to take steps forward with social media, particularly Twitter.
I changed jobs and my new post overwhelmed me. I postponed thinking further about using Twitter or any social media for the library, hoping to get my feet beneath me before taking such steps. So it is with a bit of sheepishness that I admit that I only finally joined Twitter last week. I feel a bit like a Johnny-come-lately, to say the least.
In addition to Michael Stephens’ inspiring presentation, SES and my husband had both made convincing arguments in favour of my joining Twitter. Twitter could give me entrance and access to a wider community of similar interests, both academic and professional, with whom I could share information and experiences and from whom I could gather advice and ideas. I would be able to have interactions and connections with other librarians, invaluable for a solo librarian if only because it would help me step beyond my home library and my personal echo chamber. I could gain better familiarity with a technology whose usage is still increasing and whose applications could be both personally and professional useful.
But still I dragged my feet.
“Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded” – Virginia Woolf
This semester, I have been part of a set of Faculty Development Workshops on Global Citizenship. They have been interesting extracurricular activities allowing me to think about how we can globalize our syllabi and teach that next generation of global leaders. At the same time, they have been interesting escapes during the day that have demanded reading of interesting articles and critical thinking/discussion of our world around us. That being said, today was a busy day, and one where I could not attend my much-enjoyed seminar. I am also a note-taker for those meetings, so the need to get an accurate read on the meeting was not only critical for my own enrichment, but for the ability to post a quality summary for the other participants. This got me thinking about my trusty Sony voice recorder and, regardless of brand or toy, the ease and benefit of using voice recordings for a variety of educational and research purposes. It may sound obvious, but with the number of tools and software available today to facilitate this task, I thought it would be of benefit to write up a post that gave an overview of the many options that are available today.
As we have alluded to in previous posts, Google Reader has undergone a radical transformation, and KRED and I are currently reassessing our feed reader options. The redesign has us thrown a bit. For the last two years, I have been using Google Reader to keep my many feeds organized, bookmark articles for reading when I had down time, and share interesting finds effortlessly with friends and colleagues. However, with the push to have more users taking advantage of Google Plus (Google’s Facebook-equivalent social networking site), there has been a paring down or incorporation of the tools’ best attributes to enhance Google Plus. While Google Plus is being tweaked, the former standalone tools are being changed in dramatic ways, and Google Reader fell victim in this latest redesign. With that being said, I am not left with a second tool that has shifted so dramatically it is no longer useful to me.
So, what happens now?
This weekend, I am participating in the SUNY COIL Institute’s workshop on human societies and digital learning. The purpose of this weekend is to bring together institutions who are participating in the human societies track of the institute who are working to develop online learning modules with partner institutions around the world. The program which I support as a graduate assistant is working with a partner in Ghana to create a module that integrates global citizenship into business, education, and first year learning. As a result, I had the opportunity to participate in this fantastic workshop and gain perspectives on these themes, as well as the innovative and practical applications of technology to create the most meaningful learning experience possible. Two large themes that I want to concentrate on for this blog post are both the opportunities that online learning afford and the need for global citizenship education to be integrated into our teaching.